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Carol’s Speakeasy

1355 N Wells St.

Mother Carol (a.k.a. Richard Farnham), who had been called “the Mother of all drag queens,” opened Carol’s Speakeasy in 1978 in a space that had been known as Den One. After Mother Carol’s death a year later, the club continued to be a hotspot for the city’s LGBTQ community and invited an array of early house music DJs for its dance floor. Turntable regulars included Frankie Knuckles, Peter Lewicki, Greg Collier and Mike Graber. Along with a weekly roller skating party, the club also became one of the first dance clubs in Chicago to include video monitors when the screens were installed in 1982 and brought in such VJs as Grant Smith. A mysterious performer only known as Bearded Lady also appeared regularly. Carol’s Speakeasy also became a rallying point for LGBTQ activism after police harassment in 1979. After the Chicago police raided the club in 1985 and photographed its patrons, a resulting class-action lawsuit helped advance the cause of LGBTQ rights in the city. Carol’s Speakeasy closed in 1991.

– A.C. 

Caption: Former location of Carol's Speakeasy

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